Online Banking Not Caught On In Uganda

Our organisation, CPAR Uganda Ltd, was selected by GlobalGiving Foundation, from among hundreds of applications, to participate in the GlobalGiving “September 2018 Accelerator”, an on-line crowd funding platform. We were selected to participate in the Accelerator, in order to raise funds for our proposed mentoring project in support of disadvantaged student interns that are affiliated to universities that are located in the poorest region of our country, greater northern Uganda.

We were exhilarated and had every confidence that we would do well crowd fundraising from our fellow Ugandans. We were satisfied with our knowledge that a significant number of major banks in our country provide and support on-line banking services and that those banks that do, combined, have a countrywide reach. During our preparations, therefore, we never bothered to check out the alternative ways in which our potential donors, fellow Ugandans especially, could make their donations.

We were 100 percent confident that our donors would all make their donations using the various online banking platforms that are on offer here in Uganda. We were confident that all those whom we targeted to make donations would have access to online banking services and would be willing and able to use those services.

D-day arrived and right from the first day, many of our potential donors asked us if there was an alternative way in which they would make their donation; a way does not involve online banking. These included persons known to us and whom we know, at the very least, to have Visa Debit Cards which they use for making cash withdrawals from ATM machines.

When we explained to them that those very cards that they use for making ATM withdrawals, they could use to do an online transaction, they simply did not want to do so and for various reasons. A week into the Accelerator, we realised that we must come up with alternatives that our potential Ugandan donors could use to make donations.

Our first alternative was for them to deposit funds on to our organisation bank accounts, from whence we would draw the funds and then deposit them onto the personal account of the Managing Director, from whence she would use her Visa Card issued by DFCU Bank to buy GlobalGiving Gift Cards; cards we then emailed to the respective donors, in order for them to make their online donation to our project.

Then some of our potential donors let us know that they are not happy having to take the funds to the bank and to stand in the long lines at the bank in order to deposit the funds onto our bank accounts. And so we offered that the Personal Assistant to our Managing Director would pick up the cash or cheques from the donors, take and deposit onto the Managing Director’s bank account, from whence she would use her Visa Card to buy a GlobalGiving Gift Card, and then email the gift card to the donor and then the donor uses the gift card to make their online donation to our project.

Physical collection of funds worked to a limited geography of Entebbe and Kampala. Our potential donors, especially those living up-country, in the rest of Uganda, outside of Entebbe and Kampala, requested that they would like to make their donations via telephone mobile money. And so we provided them with the mobile money line of the Personal Assistant to our Managing Director and they, including some of our donors within the Kampala and Entebbe area, make their donations via mobile money. The Personal Assistant then picks the funds from mobile money, takes them and deposited on the Managing Director’s bank account; who then buys gift cards, emails them to the respective donors and then the donors use the gift cards to make their online donations.

Yes, most certainly, the alternatives make the transaction cost for online giving to our project very high. We are now in dilemma. In order for us to benefit from the resources and fundraising opportunities and contacts that GlobalGiving Foundation has on offer our donors necessarily have to make donations to our project online via GlobalGiving.

It is time for GlobalGiving, as it did with MPESA in Kenya to consider establishing a similar relationship here in Uganda that can be powered through the local telecommunication companies that will allow our donors to make donation direct to GlobalGiving via mobile money.

But the need for working through telecommunication companies could be easily avoided if only online banking caught on in Uganda. You can imagine DFCU Bank does not charge for online banking transactions, and yet some of our donors  hesitate to use their DFCU Bank issued Visa Card to make online donations via GlobalGiving. What must we all do so that online banking catches on in Uganda?

2 responses to “Online Banking Not Caught On In Uganda”

  1. I think Uganda Institute of Bankers ( I do not even know their mandate) should do the needful. Promote Online banking and explain to all Ugandans that it is safe.. Actually free ….. Even most the elite of this country are not using Online banking even when the service is available to many bank customers. Government should also interest itself in the same.. otherwise many of us remain skeptical


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